Skip to main content Skip to footer


Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded mammals, including humans. Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal. In Canada, bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons are the most common transmitters of the disease. Pets and other domestic animals can also spread rabies.

The HKPR District Health Unit's Public Health Inspectors are in your community to help:

  • Monitor reports of rabies cases in the area to keep informed of potential rabies threats.
  • When notified, investigate potential human exposures to rabies.
  • Confine and visually inspect a dog, cat or ferret that bit or scratched a person for a 10-day observation period, from the date of exposure.
  • Make recommendations and deliver post-rabies treatment to physicians when vaccination required.
  • Assist participating veterinarians in the promotion of the low-cost rabies vaccination clinics.

  • Never leave a child alone with an animal (including your own pet) and teach children how to safely act around pets or other animals.
  • Ask a pet owner first if it’s OK to touch or approach an animal. Ensure the owner is in control of the animal and aware while the child is approaching the animal.
  • Do not disturb animals that are sleeping, eating, caring for their young, or showing signs of illness
  • If an animal is growling or showing aggression, back away slowly to gain distance from it. Stay calm and don’t yell or scream. Never turn around and run. Avoid eye contact with the animal
  • Get children to keep away from wild or stray animals, If a wild animal growls or is aggressive, back away slowly. Never turn around and run. Avoid direct eye contact. Wild animals (like foxes and raccoons) that are friendly may be sick, so stay away!
  • Never reach into a car window if a pet is inside.
  • Never reach through a fence or enter a home unannounced, as dogs may be protective of their territory and may feel you are a threat.

  • Be responsible, especially if children are near your pet
  • Keep pets on leashes and under control when out in public spaces/trails
  • Vaccinate your pet against rabies. It’s the law!
  • Know where your pet is at all times when outdoors. Confine your pet to a fenced yard or keep it on a leash
  • Keep pets indoors at night and don’t feed the outside where food can attract wildlife
  • Keep pets away from wild animals or other unfamiliar/stray pets
  • In Ontario, you can be held legally liable for your dog’s actions (including attacking or biting someone). The Dog Owners’ Liability Act lists requirements dog owners must follow and spells out possible penalties

Bites and Scratches

Take action to protect yourself if you've been bitten or scratched by an animal.

Animals can spread rabies through bites and scratches. Rabies is fatal if left untreated. Know what to do if an animal bite occurs:

  • Get the pet owner’s contact information. If possible, take a picture of the animal or remember specific features (like markings, collar with tags). This helps with the follow-up investigation to ensure the correct animal is identified.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water
  • Get medical care right away. Rabies is fatal if left untreated
  • Report the bite or scratch to the Health Unit so that further investigation can be done.

Watch this video to learn the process to report animal bites and the rabies protocol to be followed by hospitals in the HKPR District Health Unit area.

Need 2 Know: Rabies in Pets

Watch this quick video to learn how to protect your pets from rabies.

Bats and Rabies

Like other mammals, bats may have rabies.

Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and help reduce the insect population. Bats cannot be vaccinated for rabies using baits, as has been done for foxes and raccoons. International research is being conducted on vaccination methods for bats. 

Rabid bats often lose their ability to fly, or do not fly well. If a bat is wandering around in the daylight, acting strangely, or crawling, it may be rabid. Stay away. 

Direct contact with a bat is defined as the bat touching or landing on a person. When there is no direct contact with a bat, the risk of rabies is extremely rare and rabies post exposure vaccines are not recommended. 

If you have had direct contact with a bat (bite, scratch or bat has landed on your skin) wash the affected area with soap and water, seek medical attention immediately, and notify the local health unit. 

If you awaken and find a bat in your room and there is no evidence of direct contact with the bat, rabies vaccine is generally not recommended.  

Rabies vaccines can be considered for people who were in the same room as a bat and are unable to say whether direct contact has occurred. For example, a sleeping child or an adult who is not able to accurately assess the situation may qualify for rabies vaccination.  

Direct bat contact is more likely in instances where there is evidence of a bite or scratch mark. If possible, the bat in question should be safely collected by an adult and submitted for testing.

If you’re unsure whether you or your family were in contact with a bat, please call our Environmental Health Team at 1-866-888-4577 extension 5006 to receive more information.

  • Warn children to stay away from all wild animals, including bats 
  • Bat-proof your home. If bats are found in your home, seek advice from an animal control or wildlife conservation authority 
  • Be sure your pet’s vaccination is up-to-date as bats can transmit rabies to domestic pets.
  • Never keep bats as pets.
  • Seek medical advice if you receive a bite or scratch from a bat. The bat should be considered rabid unless captured and proven otherwise 

  • Never touch a bat with your bare hands.
  • If you believe there has been direct contact with the bat, and you feel comfortable you can try to capture the bat to submit for testing.
  • If you’re not comfortable with attempting to catch the bat, please call a wildlife or pest control company for assistance.
  • Wear gloves and use a suitable container for capture.
  • Live bats CANNOT be submitted for testing.
  • All bats submitted for testing must be humanely euthanized. Please contact local vet clinics with further questions regarding humane bat euthanization.
  • Please contact the health unit to have the bat tested.

Animal specimens may be submitted for rabies testing if necessary. The health unit and veterinary clinics can assist in this process. All bats who have direct contact with humans are considered rabid unless test results prove otherwise.

Rabies is a fatal disease if left untreated. However, access to rabies post exposure vaccinations is available if necessary. Your health care provider must assess and request rabies vaccine on your behalf.

Related Information

Get more information on insects, animals and bites.

Your Feedback is Important to Us!

Take our Quick and Anonymous Survey.

We value your experiences with our services and invite you to share your feedback. Your insights help us improve and better serve our community.

This website uses cookies to enhance usability and provide you with a more personal experience. By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies as explained in our Privacy Policy.